Defining A Legacy

What's in a legacy? Ohio State's group of leaders know that a victory against Louisiana State in the BCS National Championship Game will go a long way toward creating a legacy they would like to leave behind. To that end, find out how important Kirk Barton and a few other Buckeyes feel this game is for cementing their legacy.

When Ohio State takes the field to face Louisiana State in the BCS National Championship Game, there will be more on the line for Kirk Barton than a mere football game. The same goes for Dionte Johnson, Tyler Whaley and a handful of others.

The team's second consecutive berth in the national title game will give the Buckeye seniors a chance to solidify what is already an impressive résumé that boasts one glaring black mark: last season's championship game.

Almost immediately following OSU's 41-14 loss to Florida last season, preparations began to help the team avenge the disappointment. During the spring, Barton said he was prepared to take the team's leadership role to help the Buckeyes show the world that they were better than they had demonstrated against the Gators.

Now, thanks to an 11-1 record and one of the most unpredictable seasons in the history of college football, OSU has that chance.

But not only could the game against LSU help to turn around the public perception of the Buckeyes, but it will define what the team's leaders will be remembered for.

This is for their legacy, Barton said.

"I think it's paramount because being a senior and being a captain and coming back for one more chance at winning a national championship and then having that opportunity in front of you, it's definitely going to be a huge, huge marker of my career and all the seniors' careers," he said. "We're excited for it. Our sense of urgency is high obviously. We need to be ready to go.

"We'll be ready to go on January 7."

It is not like the Buckeyes are hurting for hardware in recent years. Since Barton enrolled in 2003, OSU has appeared in three BCS bowl games, winning two of them. He has helped block for a Heisman Trophy winner, been teammates with a Lombardi winner, a Nagurski Award winner and several other All-Americans and presided over a team that has won its last four games against archrival Michigan.

But it seems that all those achievements will be glossed over in the history books and the consciousness of the public should the Buckeyes falter again on the biggest stage of the season.

A win against LSU would give OSU two national championships in a five-year span and just their second since 1970.

The desire to make up for last season's loss with a season-defining win is not limited just the senior class, however. Junior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who has served as a rotating team captain throughout the season, said that the team needs to win if it wants to be remembered at all.

"Nobody will probably remember the 2006 team because we went and lost," he said. "Getting there is not good enough. This will be a great opportunity to try and leave a legacy at this university."

Head coach Jim Tressel has said that he hopes the legacy his players leave behind is a more intangible one, one of hard work and dedication.

It is those intangible things, however, that could lead to the tangible result of bringing home a national title.

"At the beginning of the season everybody was like, ‘Who are the seniors? Everybody left,' " Johnson said. "Now we're sitting here and they're like, ‘Oh, you guys have the opportunity to play for a national championship. It is definitely a blessing. Nobody thought we could get here aside from the people that are in that locker room."

From that standpoint then, it is a sense of mission accomplished. The Buckeyes have set out to get back into the national title game and have done so, but a loss now would undo all the work it has taken to get here.

"We have to focus on this game and win it," Jenkins said. "Just getting back wasn't enough for us. Now it's get here and win, regardless of who we play. That doesn't really matter. We just want to take advantage of the opportunity that we've got and try to come out with a win."

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